Shelter in place in your own backyard

What do I need to know about Sheltering in Place?

Shelter in place in your own backyard

Shelter in Place

Many people hear the word ‘emergency’ and immediately assume evacuation, but according to first responders and emergency preparedness specialists, sheltering in place is more common.

Unless instructed to do otherwise, or there is obvious threat to your property (an incoming fire or tsunami for example), then stay home! It’s where all your good stuff is.

Reception centers, roadways, and public meeting places are likely to be crowded with people who may be desperate. Supplies are usually very limited in these places so having your own stores in a familiar place will hugely impact your ability to ride out the disaster in relative comfort and safety.

For many emergencies and rural locations a minimum of 1 week of supplies is recommended for Sheltering in Place. Be prepared to camp out in your yard if the house is unstable/inaccessible. As one of my preparedness mentors used to say: “emergencies are like camping, but the camping came to you.”

What does “Shelter in Place” mean?

At its most basic, sheltering in place is exactly what it sounds like. You take shelter where you are, whether that’s your home, school, or office. Because Total Prepare is located in an earthquake zone, we most often use it to refer to backyard camping if your house is unstable, but shelter in place might look different for different emergencies:

Earthquake- If your home is safe, stay indoors and tune in to the radio or news station. If your home has obvious damage or a cracked foundation, break out the tent and do some backyard camping until officials tell you it’s safe to return.

Weather- In extreme weather you may be instructed to shelter in place. This could be just staying off the roads, or it could mean taking shelter in your bathtub from a hurricane. Your emergency radio station or news channel should give you direction as to which.

Environmental dangers- In some cases shelter in place orders are given because there’s something contaminating the air outside. Wildfire smoke, nuclear emergencies, or other airborne contaminants could cause officials to give this kind of order. They’ll usually ask for all windows/doors to be closed, and furnaces, air conditioners, and exhaust systems to be turned off. If directed, cover doors, windows, and vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape and stay in interior rooms if possible.

I have a Bug Out Bag, do I need a Shelter in Place Kit?

Great question! Due to the nature of Shelter in Place kits, they are often not very portable. If an evacuation order is given, or you need to flee your home, it is best to have a kit designed for ‘grab and go’ at the ready. A good way to combine kits is to incorporate backpacks into your Shelter in Place kit. Include the first 72 hours of supplies for your Shelter in Place kit inside the backpacks so you can move quickly when needed.

Bug out bags and shelter in place kits serve very different functions, so it’s best to have both. You can never be too prepared!

Where should I store my Shelter in Place Kit?

This is one of the questions we receive most, and the answer is different for everyone. You want to keep your kit somewhere that is secure from pests but easy to access if you need it in a hurry. Popular choices include storing kits inside a vehicle or motor home, in a hall closet near the main exit, at the front of the garage, or in pest-proof containers in a shed. If you don’t have a good location to store your kit, don’t despair! In many emergency scenarios you will still have the time to grab it, or be able to get to it post-emergency with a little elbow grease.

I don’t have time to put a kit together.

Gathering all the items for a kit can be daunting, so Total Prepare has done the work for you! Our one and two week kits contain items to cover all eight areas of preparedness. These kits are designed for 2 or 4 people, and plan for a minimum of 4 liters of water per person, per day.

These kits contain Legacy Freeze Dried Food; complete entrée and breakfast meals with a whopping 25 year shelf life! Portable toilet options cover the other end of the cycle, and blankets, ponchos, first aid supplies, and other items will take care of everything in between!

I want to build my own kit, what would you recommend?

Everyone’s kits will be different, tailored to fit your family, lifestyle, and needs. Below, we’ve compiled a list of what we would consider a very comprehensive Shelter in Place kit. Don’t be overwhelmed! These items are only suggestions, and are a good place to get inspired. Not every item will be right for every household, so use your best judgement to create a kit that’s best for you.

Not sure if an item will work for you, or wondering why you might need something? Just want a second opinion on your kit? No problem! Just phone or email our friendly staff and we’ll be happy to talk things over with you.

Suggested Shelter in Place Kit Contents

  1. Potable Water – 4 Litres per person per day.
    1. Store as much water as possible.
    2. If space is short, consider using purification and filtration options.
    3. Want to learn all about water in emergency situations? Check out our other post here!
  2. Food – Aim to store 2000 calories per person each day, with a bare minimum of 1200. Long shelf life options are ideal, but cans are great too. Just remember to check your kit every year to cycle through any expired goods.
  3. Cooking surface/stove and extra fuel. – Noncombustible options are preferable if storing for long periods, or in hot locations. Camp stoves, barbecues, or grills for a campfire are great.
  4. Cooking/serving equipment. – cutlery, ladle, flipper. Essentials not everyone thinks of.
  5. Fire Starter – At least two methods. Practice with them if the method is unfamiliar (eg flint and steel.)
  6. First Aid Kit – Match the skill level of the household. If you don’t know how to use a tourniquet, don’t pack one. (Here’s why.)
  7. Solar or Crank Emergency Radio – Write your local emergency stations on the unit.
  8. Solar or Crank Flashlights – Not a good time to be looking for spare batteries!
  9. Solar or Crank Lantern
  10. A corded land line or method of charging a cell phone.
  11. Sleeping Bag/blankets
  12. Insulation from Ground – Sleeping mat/emergency blanket
  13. Tent & Tarps
  14. Light Sticks
  15. Alcohol based hand sanitizer – doubles as a fire accelerant (careful!).
  16. Heavy duty garbage bags and shovel – good for when a toilet isn’t available.
  17. Outdoor lidded garbage cans – waterproof storage, ideal if an emergency happens when it’s raining.
  18. Paper towels / toilet paper
  19. Power Generator – Solar is ideal for preparedness
  20. Playing Cards / Versatile Games 
  21. A Book or Magazine
  22. A USB stick with copies of important documents 
  23. Mementos/Comfort Items – Use your ‘important documents’ USB stick for family photos too!
  24. Tool for turning off gas/water lines – Only turn off your gas if directed or you smell rotten eggs.
  25. Changes of clothes – pack for different types of weather
  26. Rain Gear – Even a lightweight plastic poncho makes a BIG difference.
  27. Duct Tape
  28. Knife – For cutting rope, shaving kindling, etc.
  29. Multi-tool/Army Knife
  30. Work Gloves
  31. N95 Masks
  32. Toilet Set / Folding Toilet

Assess your needs and ensure that you have at least one thing to cover each area of preparedness (below). Once that’s done you’ll have a great base kit to work from or add to over time using the above list for guidance. Want to learn more about survival kits in general? We’ve written about that here.

The 8 Areas of Preparedness are: Water, Food, Light, Communication, Shelter, Heat, First Aid, and Sanitation.

Thank you for reading! If this article helped you, or if you feel we missed something, let us know in the comments below!

Eerie quiet at NW fault where ‘big one’ may shake

The opening line of Tom Banse’s news report caught our attention: “Any parent of a rambunctious youngster can tell you trouble might be afoot when things go quiet in the playroom. Two independent research initiatives indicate there is a comparable situation with the Cascadia earthquake fault zone….onshore seismometers have detected few signs of the grinding and slipping you would expect to see as one tectonic plate dives beneath another”

The unknown makes us worried. We grab hold of any information we can glean from the environment around us and we look to those who can explain it. What IS going on so deep beneath our feet and when is the earth going to release its pressure?

University of Oregon geophysics professor Doug Toomey comments in the report: “What is extraordinary is that all of Cascadia is quiet. It’s extraordinarily quiet when you compare it to other subduction zones globally. If there were low levels of offshore seismicity, then we could say some strain is being released by the smaller events. If it is completely locked, it means it is increasingly storing energy and that has to be released at some point.”

Tom Banse reports “The bottom line: Even with more sensitive instruments, it’s still eerily quiet out there. Which leads the researchers to conclude the dangerous Cascadia fault zone is stuck — or in science-speak, it is fully “locked.” The evidence pointing to the colliding tectonic plates being completely stuck has serious implications for earthquake risk on land in the Pacific Northwest. Toomey said a big unknown is how much strain has accumulated since the plate boundary seized up, and secondly, how much more strain can build up before the fault rips and unleashes a possible magnitude-9.0 megaquake and tsunami. Toomey described himself as “very concerned” and said it is “imperative” people in the Northwest continue to prepare for a big earthquake.”

“The last full rip of the Cascadia Subduction Zone happened in January 1700. The exact date and destructive power was determined from buried forests along the Pacific Northwest coast and an “orphan tsunami” that washed ashore in Japan. Geologists digging in coastal marshes and offshore canyon bottoms have also found evidence of earlier great earthquakes and tsunamis.”

“The inferred timeline of those events gives a recurrence interval between Cascadia megaquakes of roughly every 400 to 600 years, reports the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.”

We feel this is important information to share and we will be watching for more reports as seismologists continue their quest to bring us news.

To read or listen to the full article by Tom Banse, Northwest Public Radio, click here.

Friday Roundup – Earthquake on the left, Superstorm on the right

It has certainly been a busy week for emergency managers and personnel.  The personal loss and devastation of Superstorm Sandy has been massive.  Looking at the subway system in NYC you get a glimpse into what the cleanup operation will entail.  We start this weeks roundup in Canada and then down the eastern seaboard and finish with an informational post on Serving Sizes of Emergency Food Kits.

A Vancouver Island newspaper posted this headline a couple days after the 7.7 magnitude earthquake off the west coast of Haida Gwaii:  Emergency officials push for preparedness after earthquake.  Karen Lindsay, Nanaimo Emergency Program coordinator said the quake is a reminder that Nanaimo is in a seismically active region and that people should keep emergency preparedness kits in their homes and business. They also remind people that 72 hour preparedness is a minimum but more realistically you should be prepared for 7 days.   Saturday’s earthquake was the second largest recorded in Canada.

A great blog post on Disaster Preparedness from Sloan Crosley (great name!) from October 31, 2012.  She writes about her own journey of emergency preparedness based on previous experiences and those of friends.   A strong line from her post says:   “But on Tuesday, I woke up to find that my friend’s fears were warranted. Subways flooded, hospitals lost power, people were fatally wounded.”  Powerful stuff!

We finish our roundup with a post from the good folks at  The contributor speaks to the “serving sizes” of advertised emergency food kits.   He compares some Costco kits and their serving sizes with a one year supply from Augason Farms.  He gives tips from FEMA on recommended items and water rations.  Bottom line is do your research on calories, serving size, sodium content and whatever other factors you personally find necessary for your long term food supply.  At least we are thinking!

That’s all for this week.  Stay prepared!

Friday Roundup – The Great ShakeOut

This week we link to a number of articles that relate to the Great ShakeOut which was held in earthquake prone area’s around North America.  Each area encouraged participants to register online to be counted and listed.

There was the “The Great Southeast ShakeOut” held by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium.  We all remember “drop, cover and roll” for fires, now we need to add into our memory banks “drop, cover and hold on”.   A nice simple explanation of each is included in the link although it is fairly self explanatory.

The “Great California Shakeout” in this article encourages the participation of schools and speaks to the drill that was done at 10:18 on Oct 18.   More than 9 million Californians were expected to participate in the annual earthquake-preparedness exercise.

More press from lists the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, British Columbia and Southern Italy in the Great ShakeOut earthquake drills.  Interestingly, the first safety drill was held in Southern California in 2008 simulating a magnitude 7.8 earthquake.

Till next week… remember “Drop. Cover. Hold On.”



Motivation to Get Your Earthquake Emergency Kit

We have all witnessed innocent people on TV who woke up on a fine day without any idea that their entire world would be turned upside down by lunchtime. An earthquake is actually one of the easier calamities to plan for even though they can strike during any season or time of the day, making some of us feel even more uncertain about how to best prepare an earthquake kit.

Most of us have a lot of supplies in our homes already, including bandages, canned food and enough bottles stored way to start. Once you start gathering up a selection of needed items and place them in a good duffle bag or back pack it will become much easier to visualize what else we will want to have if we found ourselves staying out of the house. For some people this emergency kit preparation process will become downright fun at this point, while considering which items will give us comfort during a time of stress and uncertainty. Whether that might include a favorite author’s new book, a shortwave radio and lots of batteries or comfort food, this is where we start to envision the fulfillment our personal needs.

Many checklists already exist and are readily available to help us remember the most important items. However just starting the process at whatever point you find yourself in preparation, will do the most to ensure its completion than some of our best laid plans. Starting to create a kit is personally engaging, and we envision being comforted rather than being distressed which assists in our continued work to meet the goal of having a completed kit for each person. It will also be beneficial for those of us with children or other dependents to help guide each person in our care through their own process of considering how to meet their own person needs in the case of an emergency. This is a life skill that will empower them to perform again in the future and potentially show their own children someday. Motivation is personal in nature but it is natural for us all to want to feel safe, so this is a wonderful way to help combat our fears and ensure that we will have comfort if that time of calamity does arrive.


Friday Roundup – Communication, zombies and insurance

Moving into the month of June, activity seems to be increasing with emergency preparedness around North America.  Is it due to economic unrest in Europe or the continued wild weather?  This weeks roundup includes an article on mobile communications and earthquakes, the CDC denying the existence of Zombies and the Insurance industries take on disaster preparation.

First up is the headline, Mobile communications and earthquakes: a very “disturbing” marriage.  My first thought is: what??  Mobile communications would be the ideal marriage from first glance.   The author,  Armand Vervaeck from a website that follows and has reported on every major earthquake over the last 12 months, has concluded that communication problems are one of the recurring problems that exist.   Armand explains the major problem is mobile connectivity after a quake and lists the 3 main results from this.  He goes on to layout an effective way that the authorities and Networks can manage behaviour after an earthquake.  Very interesting reading and solutions that CAN work. (This article is no longer hosted online, however a similar study may be found here.)

We move on to the Zombie news item that left me a little perplexed.  The article is called “CDC Denies Existence of Zombies Despite Cannibal Incidents”.  I was really unsure if this was tongue in cheek or not.  If it was, it was more than a little “zombie” off colour.   These were actual events that happened with very disturbed people.  Regardless, the CDC has continued the theme with their Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.  Have fun ya’ll.

Finishing the week we have a look at how the Insurance industry is weighing in on emergency preparedness.  The good folks over at bring us the following headline:  “Insurance is Key to Disaster Preparation”.   This was issued by the Texas Department of Insurance at the beginning of the official Hurricane season.  They make some great tips and observations from creating a home inventory to checking your policy.  They have even created an app called the myHOME  It can be downloaded via iTunes.  Just search “NAIC”.